Having failed to listen to advice from health experts on handling Covid-19, the government took criticism of the extension regulations on masking, gatherings and travel, with two eminent scientists admitting that the document was poorly written and not fit for purpose.
In taking a look at the proposed changes to the health regulation, which went into effect this week – inviting public comment to be submitted by July – the health department said:
- The use of a face mask must be maintained when entering and inside an indoor public place or when entering public transport;
- There should be a maximum of 50% in any indoor and outdoor gathering, provided that each participant has been vaccinated against Covid-19 – has produced a valid vaccination certificate or a valid negative test result – no older 72 hours before the date of the meeting.
- All international travelers arriving at SA ports of entry must be vaccinated against Covid-19 and present a valid vaccination certificate or a valid negative PCR test result no older than 72 hours prior to departure date.
Making fun of the latest protocols, Professor Shabir Madhi, executive director of the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics research unit at Wits University, said they were “full of internal contradictions.”
“Regulations still focused on the claim to prevent infections have failed miserably in the context of AS. Simply put, SA maintains its unique mission of reformulating the regulations, which unsurprisingly failed to prevent the spread of the virus in our context.
“All of this is done at the cost of further undermining economic recovery, further damaging livelihoods and disrupting sporting and other events,” Madhi said of ongoing restrictions on limiting outdoor gatherings to 2,000.
“This doesn’t make sense, since the safest place to be outdoors, where the risk of infection is nominal, unlike in shebeens and bars, where people drink without masks,” he said.
Madhi described a move to subject international travelers to a PCR test prior to arrival as “ridiculous” “but this is not the case if they travel regularly from neighboring countries”.
Epidemiologist Dr Jo Barnes said it is “hard not to come to the conclusion that the government is not really willing to listen to outside sources and will only do so when the pressure for change starts to build.”
Political uncertainty has created “the impression that the public health regulation process to deal with Covid-19 is in disarray, further eroding public trust and confidence”.
“The government decision-making bodies charged with regulating the pandemic do not provide information on why they chose the particular rules and regulations, convincing us of the scientific evidence that led to these regulations,” Barnes said.
“They’ve never done that in the past two years. “It is impossible for health services to learn from decision-making processes or to be able to challenge before implementation.”
The problems had to manifest themselves in reality and then petitions had to be presented to the decision-making bodies of the government, to have the rules changed.
“This is not a productive or positive way to prevent problems or get the consensus of the crucial staff who had to implement them.”